I was featured in the Food Protection Report (December 2004 Vol. 20 No. 12), talking about E. coli O157:H7 and fair outbreaks, specifically regarding the prevention measures taken after the 2002 Lane County outbreak in Oregon… and how kids are still getting sick, even when the fair-runners do everything right.
“I think counties and states may have to reassess whether it is worth having fairs, petting zoos, and other events that bring people in close contact with animals,” suggests prominent food litigation lawyer William Marler of the Seattle law firm Marler Clark. “I know it sounds un-American, but we are now having outbreaks of E. coli O157:H7 linked to these events almost on a yearly basis,” Marler told Food Protection Report.
Infections picked up at events where people and animals mingle can spread throughout the community. Since 1998, at least seven E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks have been traced to fairs. The most recent outbreak occurred in North Carolina, where an investigation is ongoing.
Although the specifics of each E. coli outbreak at fairs differ, Marler says, they all have a common denominator and the pathogen lurks in ways that were not seen decades ago. A 2003 study by USDA found E. coli O157:H7 was not only commonly present at fairs but that levels of the bacteria were similar to those found in commercially reared livestock, which surprised researchers.